Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

Regarding Art, Beauty, Love, and Self-Expression

"Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time." Thomas Merton
I most doubt myself as a writer when I read those writer's who somehow dip into a creative world that seems beyond my ability. They use language like a paint brush, creating entire worlds with rich vivid colors. Or they create a symphony with words, where you can hear the songs of their characters and their worlds even in the silence of your reading mind.

The writer's who make me doubt myself do a masterful dance on the border between reality and the world just beyond reality. This doesn't mean they are all fantasy writers, but they have found a way to see into the world of possibility and share that world with their readers.
"If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it." Anais Nin
I sometimes feel my writing is too linear, too logical. (Even though I don't really write linear stories). I yearn to have the power of those writers and artists.

[caption id="attachment_6908" align="aligncenter" width="584"]Between Worlds at the Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis Between Worlds at the Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis[/caption]

For you see, visual artists too have this ability to see beyond and make new meaning of the mundane everyday world. The artists I love the most transport me in some way; they ask me to step away from their art and think differently about the world.

With that said, as I wandered through the galleries in the Walker Art Center yesterday I began to ask myself the unanswerable question. "What is Art?" Now, I admit, this question often pops into my head when I look at modern art. Sometimes the line between art and . . . well  . . . garbage seems very fine. (Don't get me wrong, there are many wonderful pieces at the Walker Art Center, but there are also several that make me scratch my head and say, "Huh?!)

But perhaps it's all in the perspective of the artist. The main Exhibition that I visited today was called "The Living Years: Art after 1989". In the description of the exhibit, the Walker wrote:
"At the same time, the battles of the decade’s “culture wars” culminated in the highly politicized 1989 onslaught against the National Endowment for the Arts. The reverberations of this could be seen in the work of emerging artists, many of whom brought identity, politics, and activism to the forefront of their practice. This exhibition takes this charged moment as a point of departure, assembling a range of pieces from the Walker Art Center’s collection, including painting, sculpture, large-scale installations, photography, drawings, and editioned works."
Some of these pieces were thought provoking reflections of a changing world. Some contained powerful statements about a world of violence, racism, chaos. Some celebrated life, but it seemed like most found inspiration in the darkness.

Does art have always have to be dark and challenging?
"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance." Aristotle
While many of the pieces made me pause, question, wonder, I was struck by only a few. A series of photos taken by Walid Raad of street battle locations in Beirut in 1998 left me haunted by how much the world hasn't changed.

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These are only three of his images. The colored dots represent bullet holes as well as weapons manufacturer's and suppliers. I find these haunting and beautiful, as well as heartbreaking. What would the colors be in the lands where we wars still rage.

If art reflects life, can't we somehow learn from our mistakes?

Overwhelmed by the deep thoughts and questions raised as I wandered through a collection of video, sculpture, found object and performance art, I decided to wander through the sculpture garden. There I found a little relief in the whimsical--because I admit I have a fondness for whimsy and art that simply speaks because it tells a simple story.

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However even there, in the garden of sculptures of all sizes, I was asked to question, challenge, and consider. A square of benches drew me in, each labeled with a reflection on life in a world dominated by violence and self-doubt.


Does art have to make us look into our souls?
"The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls." Pablo Picasso
As I wandered, my mind filled with deep thoughts and questions, something magical happened.

I passed by a couple sitting on a bench, clearly in the beginning of their relationship--perhaps even a first day. They didn't touch, but their body language clearly spoke of nervous excitement.

"I want to say something, but . . . " the young man said.

"Of course, please!" The young woman with gorgeous long dark hair gave him a smile that glowed with encouragement and kindness.

"I haven't said the word beautiful to you once," he said and reached out to grab her hand.

I kept walking with a huge smile on my face.

Several benches down another couple sat. They represented the other end of the journey of love. They sat together, his arm around her, comfortable in their many years of exchanged intimacy and closeness. I couldn't hear their discussion, but their expressions told me that they enjoyed the time together, sitting on a bench looking at sculpture on a gorgeous day.

If I could, I would have taken a photo of those too couples and turned it into a piece of art called "The Love/Time Continuum"

Instead I try to put it in words.

Is that art?

To me, art is the expression of something beyond ourselves understood by individuals in ways beyond explanation.
"Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known." Oscar Wilde
What does art mean to you?